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Nothing excites us more than seeing athletes reach new levels. It’s common to see our beginning runners make large gains in a short amount of time if they stick to their plan. What’s less common is to take on coaching a runner with over 10 years of experience and who already had shaved over an hour off their marathon time.
Elizabeth Clor, 40, is one of these athletes. Clor contacted us in May 2014 to inquire about our coaching program. She had just set a new PR in the marathon, and felt like she had gotten as fast as she could on her own. We arranged a call between her and Andrew Lemoncelllo, our resident Olympian and McMillan-certified coach, to further discuss her running history and future goals. Soon after, he began coaching her towards her primary goal of qualifying for Boston.
Five years later, Clor has run seven Boston qualifying marathon times. We recently sat down with her and her coach Lemoncello (“Lemon”) to hear more about their journey.
McMillan Running (MR): Elizabeth, tell me how you first became interested in running?
Elizabeth: I started out as a fitness jogger on gym treadmills in 2001, at the age of 22. For the first four years I ran on a treadmill just to stay in shape, but I discovered racing in 2005. I loved the idea of participating in a large group activity. I think what mainly attracted me to running was the challenge of always trying to get to the next level. I also enjoy how it feels to run fast.
MR: Lemon, you’ve been working with us for over a decade now. Can you share your background with our readers?
Andrew: I had been a running geek from a very early age, reading every book I could on training and athletes. I won my first national championship at 13 and went on to win 20 more. I ended getting a scholarship to Florida State University and then ran professionally (with you as my coach) from 2007 to 2017. I have competed at the Olympic Games, World Championships (road, XC, track and mountain running), and Commonwealth Games.
MR: Why did you decide to start coaching?
Andrew: In my running career I was lucky enough to be surrounded by very successful athletes, and the methods they used were similar to the methods you used with me. I wanted to be able to impart that kind of potential fitness influence on other athletes. So when you approached me about coaching I jumped at the chance.
MR: Elizabeth, before you started working with Lemon, what did your training look like? What were some of the early mistakes you made?
Elizabeth: Before McMillan Running, I did the same workouts week after week: a track workout on Tuesday and a tempo run on Thursday. Saturday was a long run. There was little variation in these runs. I also didn’t have any guidance on what to do on the other days, and how to safely increase my volume. Before McMillan, I was frequently injured because I didn’t know how to safely ramp up, and there was little variety in my program. I really wanted to PR at every race, but I didn’t change my training at all. I just expected that doing the same thing over and over would make me faster.
MR: What was the biggest difference you saw when you started our online coaching program?
Elizabeth: Definitely the variety and the intensity of the workouts. I’m doing short Fartlek sessions, long tempo runs, hill repeats, mixed tempo/interval workouts, progression runs, strides, and other workouts that were completely new to me. I also used to have rules and self-imposed limits on how much training was too much. For example, I would never run the day after a race. Now, it’s common for me to run up to 14 miles the day after a 5K. I used to look at my schedule and think Lemon was crazy for having me do such workouts. . . but then when I executed them I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. In other words, he pushed me past the limits that I had mentally placed on my training.
MR: Lemon – what approach did you take with Elizabeth to take her to the next level. . . and then the next level after that?
Andrew: I think having someone outside of your own brain to look over the path you’re wanting to take to improve is very important. We tend to only play out the good scenarios in our head. Elizabeth needed something fresh to reinvigorate her running from the same workouts she was doing over and over again. There was no strategy to it. I was able to help her plot her progression through months and months of consistent, hard work and she improves every single season. I know just how good she can be and I think I’ve helped her realize her potential and what she can really achieve in her races.
MR: Can you tell me more about how you two work together?
Andrew: Elizabeth is an athlete that is always listening and trying to improve. I think the biggest thing with her is learning to trust in me and the process. We both know how she responds to training and she’s always wanting to be a better version of herself. She works on all aspects of her fitness including the psychology, which has helped her greatly -not only to improve her fitness- but her enjoyment of the process too. The biggest success I see with the athletes I coach with comes from when we can work together and be honest about fitness and how workouts felt. Communication is huge for me as it influences the program and how it will progress from day to day, week to week, month to month. If the athlete is honest in their communication, we can make sure that I am adapting the training constantly to help them improve each day.
MR: Elizabeth, your progression in race times has been impressive, particularly as you entered the Master’s category last year. Can you share your marathon journey?
Elizabeth: Before I started working with Coach Lemon my marathon PRs were: 4:46 (2006), 4:05 (2007), 3:51 (2008), 3:48 (2013), 3:43 (2014). Once I started working with him my progression was 3:40 (2014), 3:35 (2015), 3:21 (2017), 3:15 (2018).
MR: In addition to your training, you also made huge leaps in your mental approach. You even wrote a book about it. Can you elaborate on that?
Elizabeth: For years, I had a negative mindset without even realizing it. Race anxiety would impact my performance, and the disappointment of missing a goal would cause me to be depressed. I was a perfectionist and I didn’t know how to let go of it. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was my life, and because of all the pressure I put on myself, I ended up mentally sabotaging so many marathons. I also put too much stock in what other people thought of me. I worked with a sports psychologist on all of these issues, and I had a major epiphany in 2013, shortly before starting work with Coach Lemon. My book, Boston Bound, provides an in-depth look at the steps I took to overcome my anxiety and run with a more confident, relaxed mindset.
MR: Lemon, how do you approach the mental aspect of running with your athletes?
Andrew: I look at their goals, strengths, weaknesses, how the athlete thinks about their running, what emotions it triggers, and how I can make sure that I set them up for success. In top-end athletes, it’s usually a case of pulling the reigns back a bit because they know how to push themselves hard. They can still run hard, but I want to make sure that they peak for the races that are important to them. In ‘moderate’ athletes, it tends to be a learning game. I view myself as a coach who can teach them about themselves and for them to start understanding what processes and methods of training works well for them. I also like to use psychology and positive reinforcement to help athletes enjoy the process.
MR: Elizabeth, now that you have entered the Master’s category, what’s next for you?
Elizabeth: I have no plans to slow down any time soon! I was 40 when I ran my first sub 20-minute 5K, and I was 40 when I ran my fastest marathon to date. I trust that Lemon is going to coach me to even new heights this fall as I take on the Columbus Half Marathon and the California International Marathon. Mentally, I am prepared to work hard, step out of my comfort zone and be my best self.
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